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By: Pauline Ho

If eyes are the windows to your soul, eyebrows are the window dressing.  Eyebrows hold a high face value since they are an important part of emotional expression and facial recognition.

Growing up in a Vietnamese family, I was surrounded by female family members who had tattooed eyebrows.  In many ways, it became part of the Vietnamese aesthetic that I grew up with – perfectly drawn in and solidly painted brows.  Unfortunately, as time passed, the permanent brows faded and even changed colour. Some slid down the forehead with age.  The once soft black brows were now blue grey and dark brown brows became pinkish brown.  The evolution of my mother and aunts’ tattooed brows turned me off the idea of permanent makeup.

Now in my 40s with declining eye sight and a shaky hand thanks to carpal tunnel syndrome, I found myself spending more and more time filling in and drawing my brows to match.  Depending on the mirror and lighting, I can honestly say I was not always successful.

The fear of becoming my grandmother, in her 80s with seriously mismatched, drawn on eyebrows and too much pink blush, had me revisiting the idea of getting my brows tattooed.  Being a neurotic perfectionist, I started to research permanent makeup techniques hoping for an improvement to the blue or pink brows of the past.

That is when I came across microblading, a semi-permanent tattoo that deposits colour under the skin through precise hand cut strokes and lines that mimic your natural brow hairs.  Depending on the skin and lifestyle, results last up to three years.

This sounded too good to be true – perfect, natural looking brows that I could change or refresh when needed to look current.  Tamping down my fear of needles and reminding myself that it would be only temporary if they made a mistake, I decided to try it out.

Being cautious, I began looking for the best microblading artist in Toronto. Why settle for less than best when it would be prominent on my oversized head for at least a year?

In making my final decision, I asked a trusted friend in the fashion and beauty industry about a couple of microblading specialists who posted beautiful work and had high online reviews.  To my surprise, my top choice was Duyen Huynh who is also Associate Beauty Editor of this magazine. Such a small world.

I was immediately impressed by Duyen’s calm demeanour and ability to share information that I hadn’t found online.  This was a pleasant surprise since I’m an expert researcher.

We spent the first hour collaborating on the shape of my new brows. She explained the entire process, from how she sterilizes the equipment and tools, to what the final result of the colour options will be.

I have a fear of needles, but my vanity supersedes my phobia.  It was honestly painless due to the numbing cream she put on me for 30 minutes. The only discomfort I felt was when she left the pigment on my brows for 10 or so minutes at the end.  If you ever had a perm in the 1980s, you’ve survived the worst.

Throughout the procedure, Duyen explained what she was doing. She had me approve the work to ensure it was to my taste and standards, and kept me completely relaxed.  I realized how important this was in keeping my anxiety to a minimum.

Having seen hundreds of before and after pictures online did not minimize my awe and love for the final product.  As someone who paints and draws, I recognized and appreciated the mastery of her various strokes.  Her precision, artistic eye and perfectionism resulted in brows that are beyond my wildest dreams.  It literally changed the look of my Asian straight brow hair to mimic the thick curve of Caucasian hair.  On close inspection, it truly is a masterpiece.

When I asked Duyen how a series of cuts can change the complete look of my brow hair, she explained that advanced eyebrow sculpting microblading involves 3D and 6D layering.  By strategically cutting varying size lines and angling them to mimic the natural look of hair, she is able to create the illusion of natural looking brows.  It is reminiscent of fine art etchings.

The after care, which is crucial to the longevity of my new perfect brows, was relatively easy.  Keeping them moisturized also helped with the itchiness that presented itself late at night inspiring an overwhelming desire to scratch vigorously but my vanity came to the rescue.  By week two, my brows had faded to a very natural colour and look.

At four weeks, I went to have my brows touched up.  It was a much quicker procedure but a bit uncomfortable.  Due to the original cuts, my skin was more sensitive this time around. However, it was completely bearable with wimpy me not passing out.

As I walked away from this experience, I quietly cursed myself for having found a new addiction.  The convenience of having perfect, enviable brows is something I can no longer live without.  The beauty in all of this is not just solving my brow issue but the relationship I am building with a master artist, Duyen Huynh.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Microblading Specialist

  • Look for cleanliness and proper sanitization of tools and equipment. I liked the way Duyen plastic wrapped the adjustment handle on her chair every time she had a new client.
  • Your new brows are a collaboration. Make sure you love the shape of your brow and ask questions about 3D and 6D and pigment colour after fading.  As much as they are the experts, you have to live with your brows.
  • Are they approachable and informative? There is no such thing as a stupid question.  It is a procedure that involves cutting, blood and chemical dyes.  You need to feel comfortable, safe and secure throughout the entire process.
  • Ask about microblading scars. It happens more often than you think.  Two common causes are technicians cutting too deeply or scratching/picking scabs post procedure.
  • Ask about the pigment/ink that they use since there are quality vegan products that are made in more reputable countries.
  • Check for certification and insurance.
  • Microblading can reshape your brows, make existing ones look fuller, or create the illusion of real brow hair for people who have none.
  • Perpetually perfect natural looking brows, for up to three years, even when you are swimming, sweating or snuggling with that sexy person in your life.
  • Since it is semi-permanent, you can create the perfect brow to suit your face as it ages while keeping up with beauty trends.
  • Costs range from $300-$800 depending on where you go. It is expensive.
  • Quality of work can vary greatly so you have to do the research before you commit.
Things to Consider:
  • If you are a beach and sun person like me, keep in mind that part of the after care is staying out of the sun. In hindsight, I would have done this in the fall or winter since it requires eight to 10 weeks of no sun.
  • Bring someone you trust with you to give critical feedback and reassurances throughout the process. This is not a time when you want buyer’s remorse since you will be stuck with these brows for a minimum of one year.

Make sure that the touch-up appointment is included in the final price and that you book the appointment.  There are many online comments and complaints about additional costs and not being able to reach the technician who did the work.